Will Newt Gingrich Actually Run for President?

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks at the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, March 3, 2007 in Washington.
AP Photo/Kevin Wolf

Newt Gingrich really wants you to know he might run for president in 2012.

In Iowa yesterday to promote a new book, the former House speaker joked that his wife "likes being in Iowa and it's very possible she'll be spending a lot of time in Iowa," according to CNN. That's a reference to the time presidential candidates have to spend campaigning in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

Gingrich's latest suggestion that he will run - he is promising a decision by early next year, giving him plenty more time to fan the flames of speculation - prompted Hotsheet to look back at the CBS News archives to see just how many times he has made the claim.

Let's start with the last election: Back in December of 2006, Gingrich said he might run for president in the 2008 cycle. In May 2007, he said on CBS' "Face the Nation" he would make a decision about running by the end of that September; in June of that year, an appearance on Fox News in which he distanced himself from the Bush administration drove further speculation about a run.

The timing of Gingrich's alleged run was questionable - announcing a run in September would have meant coming into the game relatively late, after his potential rivals had already gotten a significant head start. But that didn't slow down the speculation. In July of that year, CBSNews.com ran an interview with Gingrich headlined "Newt for President?"

Gingrich, of course, never ended up jumping into the 2008 race. But keeping the question open certainly didn't hurt him.

"Since his unceremonious departure from the House in 1998, Gingrich has become Newt Inc. -- one part provocateur, one part entrepreneur, who stirs debate in his party and in journalistic circles, gets Sunday talk show invites and draws audiences on the lecture circuit," Jonathan Martin wrote in July of 2007. "A presidential flirtation helps Gingrich further raise his profile, push his ideas and sell his books."

Cut to this campaign cycle: In March 2009, Hotsheet reported that Gingrich told reporters that he and his wife will "look seriously at whether or not we think it's necessary to [run in 2012]...And if we think it's necessary we'll probably do it."

In October, he again discussed a possible run, telling C-SPAN that "if there's a requirement as citizens that we run, I suspect we probably will." In April, he appeared at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, a cattle call for potential GOP candidates, making a rock-star entrance as the song "Eye of the Tiger" blared over the speakers.

It is possible, of course, that Gingrich is legitimately considering jumping into the race - and that the notion that he is simply using hints that he will run to keep up his profile is overly cynical. But he likely realizes that a presidential run could significantly tarnish his stature as an elder statesman in his party, one who commands not just respect but high speaking fees and book royalties.

As Gingrich acknowledged in 2007, he was engaged in an extramarital affair while attacking President Bill Clinton for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky - a fact that has faded from public memory, but would rise again with the spotlight of a presidential run. He has gone through two acrimonious divorces, with his first wife suggesting he discussed divorce while she was in the hospital following cancer surgery. He was also reprimanded while in the House for using tax-exempt funding for political purposes.

Gingrich is smart enough to want to keep all that in the past, which is part of the reason why a presidential run seems like a long shot. But that won't stop him from continuing to hint that one's coming - or keep the press from taking the bait.